Agon Shū (阿含宗 "Agama School" ) is a Neo-Buddhist organization whose basic tenets are based on the āgama, a collection of Early Buddhist scriptures, which comprise the various recensions of the Sūtra Piṭaka. The organization, one of Japan's new religions, was founded in 1954 by Kiriyama Seiyū (born 1921) and was legally recognized in 1981. Its headquarters is in Kyoto.
Agon Shū and Hinayana
Agon Shū believes that it takes its principles directly from the Buddha's teachings, the Agon Sutras. In the original Sanskrit language, these are called the Agamas or the Agama Sutras, literally meaning "the teaching of the Buddha". According to Agon Shū, these sutras are the true records of the teachings of Gautama Buddha, whereas Mahayana Buddhism is a deviation from the original teachings of the Buddha. The word Hinayana, meaning 'Lesser Vehicle' is rejected as a derogatory term.
In particular, members of Agon Shū trace their practices to the Agon Sutras, in which the Buddha is reported to have taught his disciples a method known as the "Seven Systems and 37 practices for attaining Supreme Wisdom".
Seiyū Kiriyama was in a difficult phase of his life, due to illness, when he felt himself rescued by the bodhisattva Juntei-Kannon. He founded the Kannon Jikei-kai (Society of the Mercy of Kannon Bosatsu) in 1954 in Yokohama. He devoted himself to the study of divination, the Lotus Buddhism and Shingon Buddhism, which he reinterpreted in his own way. He also studied the historicla development of the Buddhist traditions in Sri Lanka and India. The Kannon Jikeikai based itself on the Kannon Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism. Kiriyama led the Kannon Jikeikai until 1978.
Kiriyama, who is believed by his followers to have rediscovered the actual method of attaining enlightenment in the Agon Sutras, founded Agon Shū in 1978. He has since written more than 50 books, of which millions of copies have been sold, and in which he expounds the beliefs, significance and goals of Agon Buddhism. Although it asserts that it is rooted in ancient Buddhism, Agon Shū brings together three major currents of Buddhist thought: Northern Buddhism, Southern Buddhism and the Esoteric school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Since 1986, when Kiriyama supposedly obtained certain relics from high authorities in Sri Lanka, members of Agon Shū have worshipped Shakyamuni Buddha as well as Juntei Kannon.
As of 1989, Agon-Shuu had 1,358 priests, serving about 580,000 believers. Members take part in religious life with the help of modern means of communication.Their activities combines study of the Agamas (called Agon in Japanese, Shū meaning school/sect/denomination) with the practice of esoteric rituals.
- World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2001, vol 2, page 11
- Agon Shu Main Site. In English.